Off balance

Off balance

Things have definitely changed in Greece but this is not necessarily something that the country’s politicians and certain businesses have grasped. The game, as it were, has become much more complex and more global. Take a look at the banks, the mergers and the big company takeovers.

A senior government official recently admitted his surprise at seeing that banks are no longer run as they were in the good old days. “You used to be able to just call the National Bank of Greece governor and sort things out in a couple of minutes,” he said with a twinge of nostalgia. Those times are certainly gone for good.

There are private investors and shareholders, some of whom are powerful international players, with strong opinions and connections that go beyond the local scene. Also, there are European institutions that, for better or worse, have a say in developments – the money is mostly theirs, after all. Nothing is simple anymore. This is evident in the ongoing tug-of-war situations across the banking system. If these continue, it could mean trouble for Greece. The complexity is also suggested by the progress (or lack thereof) in major business deals which are near completion.

At the same time, Europe still has a lot of work to do in terms of bank monitoring. How else could one explain the indecisiveness and mistakes of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), responsible for looking after all eurozone banks, with regard to Greece?

For Greek players it’s business as usual. Their foreign counterparts are finding it hard to decipher this byzantine system of power and many are hostage to their own dogmatism. The former behave like the English after the end of the British Empire, whereas the latter are like colonialists with no idea about colonial rule.

We will soon have to strike a balance. The banking system cannot afford to remain in a perennial state of uncertainty. Difficult and important decisions are to be taken that will to a large extent determine whether Greece will exit the black hole of recession. Greece’s image in the eyes of the world is not that of a serious country. The country appears to be recycling old material. A mix of outside and domestic restrictions mean that very few Greeks or foreigners will take the risk of putting their money in this country.

A continuation of the current situation will have devastating consequences for Greece and for those who have risked their money here. There must be another path between the old status quo and the bureaucratic inconsistency.

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